NOV 21, 2019 1:00 PM PST

Pharmacist Who Debunked False Vit C Claim Honored by the Maddox Prize

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

Canadian pharmacist Olivier Bernard (Maddox Prize/Fanny Lafontaine-Jacob)

"Sense about Science" is a UK-based NGO that promotes the public understanding of science. Every year the organization gives the John Maddox Prize for Standing Up for Science (named after John Maddox, a British biologist and long-time Nature editor) in order to recognize those who "promote science and evidence, advancing the public discussion around difficult topics despite challenges or hostility". 

Olivier Bernard, a Montreal pharmacist, was awarded the Maddox Prize this year for blocking the lobbying efforts to have high dose vitamin C injections approved as a cancer treatment in Quebec, Canada.

It is no doubt that antioxidants like vitamin C can protect the human body from free radical damage, and many take antioxidant supplements as a part of their diet. However, recent studies showed that taking vitamin C does not help fighting cancer and sometimes even impede standard treatment. 

For those who receive radiation therapy and chemotherapy, free radicals are necessary for killing cancerous tissue. Taking vitamin C reduces the effectiveness of these cancer treatments by neutralizing free radicals.

6 Common Misconceptions About Cancer (SciShow)

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) high dose vitamin C injections are considered a part of alternative medicine treatment. In documented clinical trials, patients who received IV vitamin C did show a better quality of life and few side effects. However, the NIH does not recommend it for patients who have medical conditions such as kidney stones, other kidney diseases, hemochromatosis, or G6PD deficiency. 

What's more important, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of high-dose vitamin C as a treatment for cancer due to the lack of evidence on its effectiveness.

In his comics-style blog and television program, Olivier spoke out repeatedly against using high dose vitamin C injections as an alternative to conventional cancer therapies. As a result, he found himself caught up in numerous incidents of harassment, a smear campaign. He and his family even received death threats due to his messages. 

Olivier withstood the pressure and torment. Thanks to his action of speaking up, as well as the tremendous support from the medical and scientific community, the Quebec legislature refused to hear the high dose vitamin C injections-related petition and created a task force to protect scientists who speak out about sensitive subjects.

Also a recipient of this year's Maddox prize, Bambang Hero Saharjo is an expert on illegal and destructive forest and land fires in Indonesia. He specializes in tracking the route and origins of fires, and he has testified in 500 court cases that involved forensic investigation of fires. 

Source: Nature News

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
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